Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ransfer: Applying good faith reliance on precedent exception

In U.S. v. Ransfer, No. 12-12956 (Jan. 28, 2014), the Court held that the good faith reliance on precedent exception to the exclusionary rule applied to the police’s warrantless use of a GPS device to track the movement of a vehicle after a robbery. The Court noted that its precedent, at the time, allowed the installation of a tracking device (a beeper) on the outside of a vehicle without a warrant. [In December 2013, the Court reached the same result in U.S. v. Smith]. The Court found no hearsay violation in the admission of testimony by a police officer regarding information that the police had obtained about the modus operandi of a series of robberies by the defendants. The Court noted that the police officer had supervised a month-long endeavor to identify and locate multiple perpetrators who engaged in a series of robberies. The testimony explained why the police believed the same perpetrators committed the crimes. The Court noted that even if the admission of the testimony was in error, the same points covered by the testimony had been covered by other evidence in the record, such as BOLO reports, and surveillance video; consequently, any error was not reversible error. As to one co-defendant (Lowe), the Court found sufficient evidence to support his robbery convictions, based on evidence that he was present at the stores during the robberies and exchanging text messages and cell phone calls with the robbers, and made inconsistent statements to police about his presence during the robberies. As to one robbery, however, the Court found insufficient evidence, because there was no evidence that Lowe was ever inside the store during the robbery. The Court rejected the argument that a Miranda waiver and statements to police were not voluntary because the defendants were held for more than 24 hours and subject to coercion. The Court noted that the detention was not that lengthy and found no coercion. The Court also rejected Lowe’s argument that the district court unduly limited his counsel’s closing argument to 20 minutes, pointing out that Lowe did not point to any argument his attorney was unable to cover in the allotted 20 minutes.